Posted in Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Book Review: The Inquisitor’s Apprentice by Chris Moriarty (Harcourt, 2011)

Recommended for ages 10-14

The Inquisitor’s Apprentice is the first book in a a science fiction/fantasy adventure series, taking place in an alternate New York City around the turn of the 20th century. Magic exists in this world, and each immigrant group has their own magic that they bring to the New World with them. Inquisitors, a branch of the New York Police Department, patrol to make sure magic is not being abused.
Thirteen year-old Sacha Kessler, who lives in the Lower East Side with his family, has the gift of seeing magic; for this, he is recruited into the NYPD, as an apprentice to Inquisitor Wolf; his fellow apprentice, Lily Astral, is from a wealthy New York family and is an entitled snob who rubs Sacha the wrong way almost immediately.

Inquisitor Wolf, Sacha and Lily are put on a case involving death threats to Thomas Edison, who is creating a witch-detectiing machine – every magician in New York City has a reason to want him dead, but as they delve deeper into the case, things become more complicated for Sacha, who sees the case leading back to his neighborhood – and possibly, his own family.

The book is compulsively readable, with well-drawn characters and an interesting alternate New York setting. Moriarty offers a new way of glimpsing life into the Jewish immigrant experience in turn of the century New York; this book would be good companion reading to a unit on immigration in America as it allows for many areas of discussion wrapped within a solidly enjoyable fantasy setting. Some may struggle with the many Yiddish terms, but context should answer most questions. A paperback edition may consider a guide to terms for some readers. Black and white illustrations by Mark Edward Geyer add to the moody feeling that permeates much of the novel.

Chris Moriarty has an Inquisitor’s Apprentice website set up that provides information on the series and on the actual New York City of the time, with photos and information about key individuals that appear in the series, like Harry Houdini and Thomas Edison. There is author event and contact information as well. He blogs at SFness.com about his own books, other author’s books, and offers writing advice. His website features his writing about science fiction and cyberpunk, along with other science fiction subgenres.